If we see a continuation of the current situation in which only politicians and athletes can shift the continent, and if the pandemic brings into question the survival of the Schengen regime, as an ideal excuse for closing borders, the already-faded gloss of the european idea could be drained completely.
If the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on international relations were judged purely the basis of the headless global rush to procure as many respirators and protective equipment as possible, in all possible legal and illegal ways, during the time of the first wave of the spread of the infection, one could think that humanity is well on its way to ending up in some sort of sanitary version of a Hobbesian war of all against all.
Fortunately, it has been reaffirmed in the meantime that international cooperation and coordinated efforts to tackle collective threats like pandemics or global warming are the only way for the world to tackle such challenges. This is supported by encouraging news of progress in the development of an effective and reliable vaccine against COVID-19: regardless of the extent to which countries like China and Russia insist on developing their own vaccines, the greatest breakthrough to date has been achieved where international intellectual and material resources have combined.
Viewed in a narrower, European framework, especially from the perspective of countries that are not EU members but declaratively or really nurture such aspirations, a major problem – apart from economic disturbances caused by the pandemic everywhere – turns out to be presented by the closing of national borders and consequent restrictions on the freedom of movement.
Only one country has truly tried to abuse the pandemic politically in order to strengthen its own position: China
Given that this measure only affects so-called ordinary people, it doesn’t carry the risk of disrupting interstate relations; but it does undermine the very idea of the EU – and, in a broader, Degolean sense, the whole of Europe – as a space where, among other things, the flow of people is unimpeded. If we see a continuation of the current situation in which only politicians and athletes can shift the continent, and if the pandemic brings into question the survival of the Schengen regime, as an ideal excuse for closing borders, the already-faded gloss of the European idea could be drained completely.
The multiply weakened capacities of the EU, overwhelmed by its own worries, have – under the conditions of the pandemic – created additional space to strengthen the influence of other powers in the Western Balkans. But here, like elsewhere in the world, only one country has truly tried to abuse the pandemic politically in order to strengthen its own position: China. Conditioning medical care with public expressions of gratitude, sending faulty equipment, aggressively promoting untruths about the treatment of patients in some European countries, even through official channels… All this came back to Beijing like a boomerang, in the form of the collapse of its international reputation; everywhere except in these parts, where different criteria apply, so such treatment is crowned with bizarre fraternisation.